Opera Lyra kicks off its 2015-16 season with Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, an opera the world over is familiar with, whether they know it or not. Set in a movie studio in the 1940’s, Opera Lyra’s General Director John Peter Jeffries, alongside Artistic Director Timothy Vernon, brings a whole new world to life in this wildly fun adaptation.
The young and beautiful movie starlet Rosina is working under direction of the over-powering and villainous studio owner, Doctor Bartolo, who plans on marrying her and keeping her as a prized possession. The young, handsome Count Almaviva has secretly fallen in love with Rosina, but to win her heart must disguise himself with the help of the studio stylist Figaro, a flamboyant individual who has his finger on every pulse of this opera. Without things getting too complicated or convoluted as some opera’s due, hilarity and destruction ensues in the most heartwarming of ways.
The Barber of Seville is honestly one of the funniest opera’s I have ever seen. It’s very witty, tongue in cheek and extremely self-deprecating of itself and opera in general. Opera Lyra’s vision for The Barber of Seville is obviously to find new people to love the opera through a fun and contemporary opera that has held up over the past 150 years.
Each and every one of the characters in The Barber of Seville are colorful and cartoony, it’s almost like they are straight out of a comic. Joshua Hopkins, the young Figaro is absolutely breathtaking and exhilarating to watch. He commands so much presence whenever he’s on stage and he never lets the show grow dull or boring as he launches from one zany action to another, all the while being endearing and well intentioned. Isaiah Bell as Count Almaviva, Marion Newman as Rosina and Peter McGillivray as Bartolo are all such strong performers that alongside Hopkins it’s impossible to pick just one star of this show.
One of the things that always impress me about Opera Lyra’s performances is how much TLC goes into the creation of the stage. The stage was so immaculately cluttered that it almost looked like a disaster zone, yet every single thing on stage had a place and purpose that paid out in one way or another.
My favourite part of the opera is the overture. I love the orchestra just setting the stage for the grand operatic masterpiece that is about to unfold. Opera Lyra was able to utilize the stage time during the overture to set the mood for how zany this opera really and truly is while giving blatantly obvious shout-outs to Bugs Bunny and the Loony Toons which had the audience in stitches.
If you have never been to an opera before, this is the best opera to start off with. If you are an opera lover, this is one of the most light-hearted and funny operas you can indulge in. Opera Lyra’s The Barber of Seville is truly one of the best opera’s I have ever seen staged and definitely sets a high bar for how the 2015-16 season is going to play out.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to know what you think. Who was your favourite character? Did you find this opera still holds up today? Join the discussion in the comments below.